11_The Misused 3.0_ British Hardware

The Philosophy of Misusing

The Misused

疫症的來臨,改變了我們的生活模式,也正好體現了所有事情都是一體兩面的。去年12月,計劃了周末看Detour年度設計節,展覽卻因為疫情反覆而被腰斬,連本來參加的「誤用工作坊:日常五金再設計」也轉為線上進行。興致大減的我沒想到線上的工作坊依然是十分有趣,平凡、廉價又經常被忽略的五金,經過重新思考、發掘和想像,組合成全新的物件,不論是功能和美感都讓人眼前一亮。工作坊的導師,也是五金文化組織「誤用論」(The Misused)的創辦人之一Liang-Jung Chen以「誤用」作為主導,思考甚麼是正確地使用,甚麼是錯誤地使用,以及使用者如何重新定義「被設計的物件」的用途呢?工作坊的途中,參加者要在家裡尋找五金的蹤跡,小至螺絲、掛勾,大至門鎖、筲箕,都是家中平凡卻不可或缺的五金,細心觀察下各自都擁有功能以外的美,一如Liang所說,五金是很有潛力的東西,只在乎我們有沒有發掘它的眼睛。

Every coin has two sides. So does this pandemic situation. Last December, I had plans to attend deTour, an annual design festival in Hong Kong. However, due to the pandemic, the physical exhibition was closed early, and “The Misused Workshop: Re-imaging Everyday Hardware” that I signed up for, was switched to online mode instead. I was actually quite disheartened by the online arrangement, but the workshop turned out to be a fun and interesting experience. As a participant, I was given the opportunities to re-imagine and explore the infinite potential of everyday hardware. Hardware, which is often considered unremarkable and cheap, was repurposed with creativity and imagination, and turned into pieces that serve both aesthetics and functionality. Liang-Jung Chen, the instructor of the workshop as well as the co-founder of The Misused, centered the workshop around the concept of “misused” — What is proper usage? What does it mean to misuse something? And how can users redefine an object that has a designated purpose? During the workshop, participants were asked to look for metal hardware and accessories around them. For those who were at home, they found screws, hooks, door locks, strainers, etc. If you look closely, you will find these ordinary but seemingly indispensable items are both functional and beautiful. According to Liang-Jung, hardware has huge unfulfilled potential that is waiting to be discovered.

12_London Design Festival 2020

London Design Festival in Coal Drops Yard, 2020.

L:Liang-Jung Chen 

O:為甚麼你會有成立「誤用論 This Misused」這關於五金的文化組織?

L:2017年時,我在台灣一間位於工業園區的家具工廠擔任工業設計師,時常接觸很多工業大量製造的製品,相較於其他產品構件,五金零件的尺寸較小,較容易收藏,基於愛蒐集材料樣品的職業病,我也就慢慢地蒐集了許多五金,日積月累下來便開始覺得好像可以拿這些有趣的玩意兒來做些什麼。加上,那時剛好回到鄉下的老家與奶奶同住,觀察到路邊一些很幽默的廢物再利用的習慣,並深深地為此而著迷,於是「誤用五金」(This Misused)的想法便自然而然的誕生了。我希望能把五金視為一種開放式的原生材料來使用,開發每件五金的潛能。






O: What inspired you to establish This Misused?

L: Back in 2017, I was working as an industrial designer in a furniture factory in Taiwan. At that time, I had a lot of chances to handle mass-produced products and their components. Because of my job, I have the habit of collecting material samples. Among the various product components, metal hardware is comparatively smaller in size and easier to store, so I started to collect them. As my collection built up, I started to think maybe I could do something fun with them. At that time, I just happened to be living with my grandmother in the countryside, and I noticed how the local elders creatively improvise daily necessities with existing objects. I was deeply fascinated. The idea of This Misused began to take shape. I want to unleash the potential of hardware.

O: Why are you particularly fond of metal hardware?

L: Hardware is considered cheap and often neglected. But the fact is, they are indispensable for they play such an essential role in connecting different components together. The contrasting views on hardware amuse me.

O: What is your view on the usage of metal hardware in different parts of the world? Anything that impresses you a lot? 

L: I moved to London at the end of 2018. I learned about the city by observing the metal hardware on the streets. I discovered that London is a very defensive city. For example, benches are built with anti-skateboarding devices and the utility poles are often equipped with spiked collars to prevent vandals from climbing. There are folding parking posts on the roadside to prevent illegal parking. There are various kinds of devices that are set to stop people from sliding down the banisters. There are even deterrents to keep birds away from the rooftop. 

All these metal hardwares I saw in London can hardly be found in Taiwan. I think the reason why there are so many deterrents in London is because the city is basically a melting pot of cultures. They need these deterrents and devices to restrain the unruly behavior of some of their citizens. In fact, you can tell a lot about a city by observing the hardware found in that place, such as ethnicity, culture, climate, history, geography, religion, and history. 



O: How did you come up with the idea of “misused”? What comes to your mind when you think of misusing the hardware?

L: “Misused” is a two-sided concept What is proper usage? What does it mean to misuse something? While functionality is a top priority in normal product design, I think the misused objects are meant for facilitating communication. They serve to inspire the viewers to imagine. Therefore, the philosophy of misusing is similar to doing conceptual designs, with both aiming to inspire the viewers. What amazes me the most in regard to misusing is the change of functionality of hardware. During the creation process, sometimes I am so inspired that I just need to take one look at the hardware and then I can come up with a design. On the contrary, there are times that I can’t come up with a satisfying idea at all after days and days of work. There are also times when I have to weed out designs that are simply not good enough.



O: I notice that you’d deconstruct and re-assemble the hardware in order to make your designs more applicable to daily life. Do you have a favourite design?

L: Among the 10 items I created for the Misused Objects 3.0, UK in 2020, I like this tape dispenser the most. It is made of wheels and metal hardware, and symbolises the act of rolling. The concept of this design came so quickly into my mind that it was like an intuition.

WIlliam Morris Design Line
The Misused Workshop in Blackhorse Workshop, London, 2020. Photo by Alistair Fife. 




L:我不常刻意去造訪五金行,大多時候都是剛好經過或是工作所需。近來拜訪過最令我印象深刻的五金行,大概是位於法國馬賽的Maison Empereur。店內刻意保留了原始的建築樣貌,販售著各式傳統的五金等商品,優雅地展示了五金耐人尋味的文化意涵,是當地一個相當受在地人與旅人歡迎的景點。我想每個城市的五金行都有這樣的潛力,畢竟五金行是一個最直接反映在地居民生活樣貌的地方,是庶民的文化博物館。

O: You have hosted so many workshops to promote the philosophy of misusing. Is there any memorable or interesting experience you can share with us?

L: It is so much fun hosting workshops. It gives me a chance to learn from others. Last year, a lot of events had to be canceled or switched to online mode due to the pandemic. But I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing. With the online mode, there is no more geographical restriction. People can participate virtually from anywhere around the globe. Personally, I had the chance to meet Eva and Brian virtually during the pandemic. They are designers from Hong Kong. We collaborated and organized two workshops together. Although I could not physically pay a visit to Hong Kong, the insights shared by the participants during the online workshop have provided me an interesting glimpse of Hong Kong. I would say the pandemic is actually unleashing people’s creativity and ability to connect. It also gives me a chance to explore the various ways of human interaction.

O: Are there places or shops that you’d go hunting for hardware? 

L: I don’t really visit the hardware stores on purpose. I usually stop by when I just happen to be around or that when I need to get something for work. Recently, I paid a visit to Maison Empereur in Marseille, France, and I was really impressed. Maison Empereur sells various traditional hardware and other merchandise. The store first opened its door in the 18th century and still has its old spirit and architecture intact. It remains today as an essential place to visit by the locals and travelers. I consider the hardware store a cultural museum for the common people. It represents the various cultural values and heritage of a city. It is a place that can most directly reflect on the lifestyle of the locals.

London Design Festival, 2020. Photo by Ali Sahba.

O:如何從「誤用五金」中重新發現五金的美?L:為五金尋找新的功能前,我們會全面地去「解構」五金。這可從不同的面向切入,較具象的角度如造型、材質、加工方式、表面處理和顏色等 ; 或是較為抽象的方向,如設計緣由、功能、示意性、在地性和使用者體驗等。藉著不同角度的提問,有助於我們理解為何這五金當初會被這樣設計。五金之美,大約是因為它必須同時兼顧功能、低成本和耐用,因此五金的設計大都是非常精煉而俐落的,絲毫不囉唆與譁眾取寵。

O:成立The Misused後,有沒有給予你一些新的想法?


O: How can we rediscover the beauty of hardware based on the philosophy of misusing?

L: Before giving it new meanings and functions, we should first “deconstruct” the hardware. There are so many ways to do it. For example, from a more concrete perspective, we can look at the shape, material, processing methods, surface treatment, color, etc. In a more abstract manner, we can look into the design concept, functionality, symbolic meaning, level of localization, and user experience. Looking at hardware from different perspectives allows us to understand how and where they come from. The beauty of hardware lies in their functionality, relatively low cost, and durability. They usually have such a refined and neat design. Nothing extravagant and outrageous.

O: How did the founding of The Misused inspire you? 

L: I can now easily think outside the box and look at things from different perspectives. This is not only applicable to my design journey but also applicable to all aspects of my life. Looking forward, I hope that I can publish my observations on hardware around the world.


Liang-Jung Chen